On Tuesday, a British affiliate of mining and trading giant Glencore pleaded guilty to seven counts of bribery in relation to oil operations in African countries. The bribery happened between 2011 and 2016 in Nigeria, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and South Sudan.
The United Kingdom's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation found that Glencore paid bribes of over $28 million through its employees and agents in exchange for preferential access to oil, including larger cargoes, valuable grades of oil, and preferred delivery dates.
Following a thorough investigation, the FTSE 100-listed company pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court, and the Serious Fraud Office stated that the sentencing hearing will take place on November 2 and 3 this year.
The success of the investigation was the result of a joint effort between the United States and UK governments. Both governments opened investigations into allegations of bribery and corruption at Glencore's oil activities in 2018 and 2019.
In February this year, Glencore announced that it had set aside $1.5 billion to meet any fines or expenses associated with the US, UK, and Brazilian investigations. The United States is set to receive a huge chunk of the money because of a number of charges levelled against the company.
In the US, one of the company's trading arms manipulated fuel oil prices at two of the busiest US shipping ports and the US attorney general stated that the $1.5 billion settlement reached with Glencore would resolve all the criminal charges.
Glencore has also agreed to pay more than $40 million to resolve bribery accusations in Brazil; $30 million to Petrobras, the country's state-run oil corporation, as restitution for fraud; and around $10 million in civil fines to Brazilian authorities.
Authorities in the Netherlands and Switzerland are also looking into allegations of misconduct, some of which may be connected to activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In addition to pleading guilty, Glencore stated that it made significant investments to enhance its ethics and compliance procedures. Additionally, it claimed to have fired or reprimanded those responsible for the briberies in Africa.
After the formal admission of Glencore, different pressure groups have stated that the court must now impose a fine that accurately represents the stunning scope and gravity of this corporate wrongdoing. They argue that the company should be heavily fined to set an example, or else other companies will simply write this off as the price of doing business.
Others are also calling for Glencore’s senior executives who supported this bribery scheme to be investigated and convicted. The company should also compensate the victims of its crimes in Africa.